Few surprises as WVU football practice begins

WVU coach Dana Holgorsen watches his team practice Thursday.

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia officially held its first practice of the preseason Thursday afternoon, and for the most part there were no big surprises.

In other words, almost everyone who was supposed to be there was there, and just about everything that can be accomplished in a non-padded practice was realized.

“I thought we had a good first day,’’ coach Dana Holgorsen said. “But everybody in the country has a good first day.’’

There are some personnel issues, although nothing that can’t be overcome. Perhaps the most significant is that redshirt freshman inside receiver Jacky Marcellus is out for the season with a knee injury.

Marcellus had been listed second on the depth chart at the H receiver spot behind sophomore Daikiel Shorts and that’s a position about which Holgorsen had expressed some concerns. He said Thursday night, though, that Marcellus’ loss can be overcome.

“It’s still better than it’s been since I’ve been here,’’ Holgorsen said. “Jordan Thompson looks good and Daikiel Shorts looks good. Those two were our inside guys last year. We’re trying K.J. Myers there a little bit. He’s been around here more than any other receiver, so he knows every position.’’

Holgorsen also mentioned true freshman Lamar Parker, who “made some plays today that surprised me.

“And then there’s all those running back guys. We’ve talked about Wendell [Smallwood] being an inside receiver, [Andrew] Buie’s done a good job of being an inside receiver, Cody Clay’s done a good job. So we’ve got more options than we’ve had since I’ve been here.’’

Smallwood, of course, was notable by his presence because as recently as the beginning of the week, his status on the team appeared cloudy, at best. He was facing charges of intimidating a witness in a murder case in Delaware, but those charges were dropped this week.

Smallwood actually disappeared from the updated depth chart at running back that was released Thursday, although he still appears on the list as a kickoff returner. Holgorsen didn’t address Smallwood’s legal issues Thursday, but he did say that the sophomore — who was second on the depth chart after the spring — was “an integral part of what we’re going to do on offense.’’

As for those without peripheral issues such as injuries or legal entanglements, Holgorsen had praise for just about everyone, including strength coach Mike Joseph. Of the players in camp, he said, “I sensed that their bodies just looked different than they have in the past.’’

Among the notables after the Thursday’s workout:

n Defensive end Shaquille Riddick was a participant. The graduate transfer from Gardner-Webb has been in town most of the summer, but wasn’t allowed to participate in team activities because he hadn’t yet officially graduated. He’s listed first on the depth chart, although Holgorsen said that at the first practice he went with the third defensive group.

n Safety Travis Bell practiced. Bell was suspended in the spring after a DUI arrest in December, his second arrest in a year.

n Linebacker Jared Barber, who hasn’t fully recovered from knee surgery, was the only player dressed in a red (no practice) medical jersey, but he wasn’t the only one injured. In addition to Marcellus, K.J. Dillon is out for about a week with an ankle injury he sustained during the team’s break just before camp began and Brandon Golson is still limited with a shoulder injury suffered at the end of the spring.

Freshman lineman Amanii Brown and junior lineman Russell Haughton-James will also miss camp with injuries, but Holgorsen said both should be back by the start of school in just over two weeks.

n Darien Bryant, the graduate transfer from Vanderbilt who joined the team this week, practiced with tight end-fullbacks Clay, Garrett Hope and Elijah Wellman.

n There are six quarterbacks in camp. Four are dressed in gold, hands-off jerseys — starter Clint Trickett, Paul Millard, Skyler Howard and freshman William Crest. Logan Moore, one of the three quarterbacks who split time in the spring, is dressed in the normal white offensive jersey and took reps at both quarterback and receiver. The sixth quarterback in camp is freshman walk-on Austin Hensley from Hurricane.

n None of the four incoming recruits who had failed to qualify by earlier this week were at practice, although one, freshman receiver Jacob McCrary, has reportedly been cleared. The others are freshman lineman Dontae Angus and two junior college players, cornerback Jaylon Myers and offensive lineman Justin Scott. McCrary and Angus are listed on the roster. Myers and Scott are not.

n Another true freshman, lineman Walter Rauterkus, has decided not to play football and went home, Holgorsen said. Rauterkus participated in summer conditioning before making the move. That means of the 15 players in the signing class, just nine are active in camp.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow @dphickman1 on Twitter.

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